Al Gore

In the summer of 1992, then US senator Al Gore from Tennessee was thrust into a much more visible public role, when Bill Clinton selected him as his running mate on the Democratic ticket.

That was also about the time Gore published his first book about the environment, a volume called Earth in the balance

And that’s how I met Al Gore, just a few weeks before he was nominated to be vice president.

The day I interviewed him if he had any indication that he was about to be nominated to be on the Clinton ticket, he did a really good job of hiding it.

So here now, from 1992, senator Al Gore.

Al Gore served as vice president under Bill Clinton for 8 years, before seeking the presidency on his own in 2000. He lost that election by a razor thin margin to George w. Bush. Since then, Gore has cemented his reputation as a leading advocate of environmental causes.

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Naomi Wolf

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but in modern western society the beholders are usually men and the men make the rules of that social construct that we call beauty.

That’s the essence. Kind of boil down into my own words of Naomi Wolf’s blockbuster breakthrough 1991 book The Beauty Myth.

The Beauty Myth created some big waves when it was published. In fact, later the New York times even said it was one of the 70 most influential books of the entire century.

But it has also generated a lot of controversy for Naomi Wolf.

I first met her when her first book was published — and I hate to admit it now, but so of my questions now seem a bit naive.

So here now from 1991. Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf is 59. She lives in Washington, DC.

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Harry Hay

In the last 20 years the LGBTQ movement has made enormous social and political strides, but what we sometimes forget is that enormous strides begin with baby steps.

More than seven decades ago, a man who took many of those first baby steps and established the modern gay rights movement was a man named Harry Hay.

Hay knew something about organizing unpopular political movements because as early as the 1930s Hay was a communist — and this was at a time when the Communist party was very homophobic. Hay married a woman and was married for several years before finally acknowledging that he was gay.

By 1950 Harry Hay recognized that the gay and lesbian community — which didn’t even really have a name yet — had rights and needed those rights protected.

Calling up on some of the same skills he used as a communist organizer. Harry Hay started the Mattachine Society. And that, many historians agree, gave rise to the modern gay rights movement.

I met Harry Hay in late 1990. He was the subject of a biography by writer Stuart Timmons called The Trouble With Harry Hay.

So here now from 1990 Stuart Timmons and Harry Hay

Harry Hay died in 2002. He was 90.

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Rachel Robinson

Photo: Kingkongphoto &

A few days ago Ketanji Brown Jackson made history as she was confirmed as the first black female supreme Court Justice.

But 75 years ago today another African American made history, in a way that may have been nearly as significant.

On April 15th. 1947 Jackie Robinson took the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first black man to play in the Major leagues.

And Jackie Robinson was no token. He was voted Rrookie of the Year that year and was the National League’s Most Valuable Player two years later.

By his side during his historic baseball career was his wife, his college sweetheart, Rachel

In the decades after Jackie Robinson’s death in 1972, Rachel Robinson has been a prominent andd influential active and leader in her own right.

In 1996 Rachel Robinson published a book about her late husband and their life together and that’s when I have the chance to meet her, the eve of the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s Major League debut.

So here now from 1996. Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson will be 100 years old in July. She lives in Connecticut.

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Betty Friedan

The roots of the modern feminist movement can be traced directly back to a single book published nearly 60 years ago.

It was called The Feminine Mystique. Its author was a young would-be journalist named Betty Friedan. It is widely regarded as the spark that lit the fire of the feminist movement.

But that was only the beginning for Betty Friedan. Three years later, she co-founded the National Organization for Women, and was its first president.

She also helped establish the National Womens Political Caucus. And she founded what was then known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, known today simply as NARAL.

In 2000, Friedan wrote a memoir called Life So Far.

This was actually my second interview with her, but the first in which I got to ask more personal questions.

So here now, from 2000, Betty Friedan.

Betty Friedan died on her 85th birthday in 2006.

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Melba Patillo Beals

Photo: Ben Schumin

Imagine a small group of high school students needing armed United States military just to get into school.

In September 1957 9. African American students, the first to enroll at Central high School in Little Rock, Arkansas, were accompanied by armed national guard members

They became known as the Little Rock Nine.

Among them was 15-year-old Melba Patillo, later Melba Patillo Beals. Somehow, she and the rest of a little rock nine escaped any kind of serious physical harm.

I first met her in 1994, when she wrote a memoir of her experience called warriors. Don’t cry.

So here now, from 1994, Melba Patillo Beals.

Melba Patillo Beals is 80 now. She lives in the San Francisco Bay aea.

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Cindy Sheehan

Photo: Ben Schumin

After a U.S. Army soldier named Casey Sheehan was killed in action in Iraq in 2004 his mother, Cindy Sheehan became one of the loudest anti-war voices in America .

What made her different from others, though, was that Cindy Sheehan was not content to simply join protest rallies or write letters. She set up a makeshift camp outside President George w. Bush’s, Texas ranch.

Her protest drew international attention, but made her many enemies as well as allies.

In 2006, Cindy Sheehan wrote a memoir called Peace Mom. I met her during one of her visits to Washington DC.

So here now from 2006. Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy Sheehan is 64 now. She

hosts a weekly radio show and has a blog called “Cindy’s Soapbox.”

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bell hooks

Photo: Alex Lozupone

How and where do race, gender, class, art, and capitalism come together?

That question was at the heart of some 30 books written by author bell hooks.

That was actually the pen name that Gloria Jean Watkins adopted for herself.

But being a black female activist and feminist also often made her a target.

In her 1999 book Remembered Rapture hooks recalled some of her challenges as a writer and activist and that’s when I have the chance to meet her for the first of our several conversations.

So here now from 1999 bell hooks.

bell hooks died last month. She was 69.

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Dexter Scott King

Dexter Scott King was only 7 years old in 1968 when his father Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.

But his memories of his late father remain sharp and crisp.

And those deeply personal recollections sometimes contrast with the public views of Martin Luther King Jr.

In 2003 at the age of 42, Dexter Scott King wrote a book called Growing Up King, and that’s when I had a chance to meet him and talk with him.

So here now from 2003 Dexter Scott King

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Cleveland Amory

It was on a cold Christmas Eve night many years ago in New York that a stray cat found a new, loving home.

His rescuer was I then crusty 60 year old curmudgeon, an author and TV and radio critic named Cleveland Amory.

Well, Amory named his new furry white companion PPolar Bear. And in 1987, when Amory wrote a book called The Cat Who Came For Christmas, Polar Bear became a celebrity.

This was my first interview with Cleveland Amory, but it was not the last. We talked several times over the next few years.

So here now, from 1987, Cleveland

Cleveland Amory died in 1998. He was 81.